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Understanding what your toddler is saying

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 08:36pm
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Learning to talk is a gradual process. It's common for a child's speech to become less clear as she tries to use more words with more difficult sounds, because these require more effort and motor control.

Your child may in fact end up saying as little as possible during different stages of learning to talk, or he may begin to act up, out of his frustration at not being able to communicate the way he'd like.

It is very important for parents to pay close attention to their child's attempts to communicate, and to encourage these attempts. Here are some tips to use if you're having trouble understanding what your child is trying to say:

If you don't understand what your child is saying, encourage her to repeat it by saying things like "Tell me again" or "Tell me more."

If you got part of what your child said, repeat the part that you understood, and ask him to fill in the missing parts.

Watch your child closely. Watch for eye movements or gestures that might give you a hint about what she is trying to say.

You can also ask your child for help, and make it appear like you're having trouble hearing by saying things like "I didn't quite hear that" and ask him to say it again.

If after all of your attempts, you still can't understand what your child is trying to tell you, you may have to apologetically say that you do not understand.

Usually children's speech improves over time. But if you are concerned that your child's speech isn't improving or if your child keeps acting up out of frustration over not being able to be understood, you may want to discuss this with your child's doctor or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519, and they will guide you to an appropriate referral.

Do you ever have trouble understanding what your child is trying to say? Share your experience with other parents by leaving a comment below!

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How play is good for your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 03:45pm
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When children play, they are practicing skills in every area of development: thinking, solving problems, talking, moving, sensing, cooperating and making moral judgments. This natural form of learning is very similar to the real world, because instead of learning one thing at a time, children have to learn - and use - several ideas and objects all at once. Playing is also fun - it makes children happy, and leads to easier and more effective learning.

You may have already noticed that in your child's early years, she explored or played by doing the same thing over and over again. This repeated practice helps learning and builds confidence. Children learn what objects are like, and what they can do with them. They are beginning to make sense of their world.

As your child is growing, he will begin to add make-believe to his play. When children pretend, they are showing what they know. For example, when they put a block to their ear and say "Hello," children are showing that an object can be a make-believe telephone, and that a telephone is used for talking to people. When children build a castle or an airport, they have to think about their goal, and figure out how to make the castle or airport. That involves being creative and solving problems.

In pretend play, children are making sense of the world, trying out things they've learned and seen, and thinking about their feelings. They sort out fantasy and reality. You can tell a lot about what your child is feeling and thinking just by watching her play.

Around the time your child begins school, games with rules become part of play. Games encourage children to use strategy, logic and moral judgments to follow the rules. Board games like Snakes and Ladders, card games and team sports are all games with rules that help children learn to take turns, negotiate, problem-solve and get along with others.

VIdeo Alert!
Watch our Preschooler Creative Play, Active Play and Comfort, Play & Teach Playtime videos to learn how to incorporate Comfort, Play & Teach into the playtime you spend with your preschooler.

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Two languages at home with your baby

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 12:14pm
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We often hear that children are like “sponges”, and that they can learn any language easily while they are young. This is true, but only when they have lots of exposure to the language. Children can only absorb as much as they are given. This means that for your child to develop his or her ability to use both languages equally well, your child must hear and eventually speak both languages often.

In some communities, this can happen naturally if both languages have equal status and the child is exposed to various people, in the family and beyond, who speak one language or the other (or both). In other cases, raising a bilingual child requires conscious planning and effort. Both parents will need to agree on their strategies for making this happen.

If one of you speaks English and the other parent speaks a minority language, like French in many parts of Canada, or any other language that is not widely used in your community, it is important to create opportunities for the child to be exposed to that language. Children understand from a young age that one of their languages is not used very much outside their home, and because they naturally have more opportunities to hear and speak English, their ability to use the other language may lag. This can lead to a situation where the child understands the other language, but does not speak it.

Here are some tips to help your child be bilingual:

Speak your own native language to your child. You are a better model for your child when you use the language you know best.

Develop a social network that includes both languages. Attending friendly gatherings, community events and doing other activities with people who speak each language provide opportunities to practice, and reinforce the message that both languages are useful and valued.

Ensure that your child develops a strong foundation in the minority language from a young age by enrolling him or her, if possible, in a child care or preschool where the minority language is the primary or only language spoken.

Research and create a list of services available in the minority language, and give them a preference (e.g. health professionals like doctors and dentists, as well as libraries, movie theatres, community centres, etc). This may involve planning ahead, or driving a little further, but your efforts will greatly benefit your child.

Make sure you have books, videos/DVDs and music in both languages in your home, and that your child is exposed to them. This reinforces your child’s language skills and strengthens your child’s appreciation of each of your cultures.

Arrange visits to and from family members who speak the minority language. Stays abroad or visits from extended family can give a boost to the language that tends to be neglected.

Depending on the languages you speak and the community where you live, some of these options may not be available. The important thing is to create as much balance as possible between the two languages, and to start doing this as early as possible in your child’s life.

Do you speak more than one language in your home? Do you encourage and provide your child with the tools he needs to speak both? Share your experiences below by leaving a comment.

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Is it harmful to yell at your baby?

by Maxine
Posted January 2 2012 03:42pm
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Some people might think that because they only yell at their child, and don't do anything physical, that it's really not that bad. But frequent, angry yelling can be as harmful as hitting your child because of the emotional hurt it causes.

If you do lose your temper and yell at your child, tell your child as soon as possible that you are sorry, and it wasn't right for you to behave the way you did. Also, explain that you will try very hard not to yell in the future. Most importantly, show your child that you will always love them. This is also great modeling for your child, who will learn that yelling is not an acceptable way of dealing with problems.

Yelling is usually a sign that you have lost control and so it will be difficult to parent effectively. When you are not in control, step back, take a few breaths or remove yourself until you are calm. You might ask your partner to step in for you as well.

If you are yelling at your child regularly, consult your physician about possible medical reasons for your anger.

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